Facts of Ballet in the Early 20th Century

1. Male ballet dancers were rare in this time period.   

The new, industrial way of life prevented many men from learning to dance. Life in factories, as oppose to farms, didn’t allow for much dance in social settings, and the small amount of social dances were predominantly feminine. The dances were also lacking in culture, and weren’t passed through generations. Men were frowned upon for participating in dance, and a career with a ballet company was not respected.

2. Jazz dance rose to popularity

In the period following World War I, ballet was still a respected classical art form, but often didn’t excited people as much as jazz did. Steps as simple as the Charleston allowed people to express their joy at the war being over. This era produced stars like Fred Astaire, and had a large influence on the modernization of Western ballet.

3. Ballet looked to jazz dance for inspiration.  

Artists like Kasian Goleizovsky were influenced by the acrobatic elements of jazz dance, and by ballroom dancing as well. He paired these styles with classical ballet to create a new kind of dance. These ballets were eccentric, and invigorating. Goleizovsky even had his ballets accompanied by jazz musicians, unlike choreographers before when.

4. Soviet ballet training became more modern.  

Meanwhile in the eastern hemisphere, Soviet ballet was becoming more modern as well. Agrippina Vaganova developed her own method of ballet that was a combination of classical ballet and new, expressive, acrobatic choreography. The Vaganova method is still known as the main Russian ballet syllabus, and is now taught to students all around the world.

5. Soviet ballet companies were influenced by the Revolution.  

The ballet companies of Soviet Russia were inspired by the Revolution of 1917. Ballets like Flames of Paris were made, performed, and quickly became popular because of the powerful, heroic themes. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the public was ready for more lyrical works, like Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

6. Ballet companies were inspired by film and stage design.  

In the early 1920s, ballet was influenced by other visual arts. Stage design, in film especially, became popular, and this brought on a new setting for ballet. It also caused choreographers to focus less of difficult choreography, and more on the set, costumes, and expression of the dancers.

7. The Ballet Russe was formed.  

The Ballet Russes are considered today a huge part of the history of this era. These were traveling ballet groups that performed less-complete, but still beautiful, pieces of ballet. Although the choreography was often widely-used, and the sets were small, the artists made the performances great, and original. The stars who emerged were unforgettable.

8. George Balanchine was recognized as a new artist.  

George Balanchine became a choreographer after years of dance experience in the early 1920s. He left Russia during the Revolution to join Sergei Diaghilev’s company, where he was able to perform his first original work in Paris. He paired expressive modern dance with quick, athletic ballet choreography, and went on to create a ballet syllabus named after him. It is still widely used today at schools and companies including New York City Ballet (NYCB) and School of American Ballet (SAB), which he was a cofounder of.

9. Bournonville ballet remained the same.  

While the renowned Vaganova and Balanchine methods of ballet were invented in this time period, the Bournonville method was sustained in its original home of Denmark. The traditional ballets were performed, and the syllabus was taught, without any revisions based on contemporary dance styles, or trends.

10. Modern dance was founded.    

Modern dance was adapted from ballet in the 1920s, although the technical style was far from that of ballet. It was influenced by many art forms, including Greek mythological stories. One of the major founders of modern dance was Martha Graham; Graham has become widely known for her success of the invention of modern dance. She believed that industrialization and contemporary occupations and people should inspire her dance.

*written and researched by BFan Ovation summer ballet intensive students Hannah and Natalie

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About Ballet Fantastique

Experience Ballet Fantastique's unmatched creativity and dramatic prowess. Comprised of 7 stunning dancers directed by mother-daughter team Donna and Hannah Bontrager, Ballet Fantastique presents productions full of sizzle and spice. Hailed as "la creme de la creme" (Eugene Weekly), Ballet Fantastique's all-original choreography infuses ballet with diverse new style, brave musical choices (from tango to Metallica), and passionate expression.

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